In Defense of Figureheads



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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3 Responses

  1. Avatar William Brafford says:

    I’ve been thinking something similar. The Court doesn’t have automatic legitimacy; it has to keep earning it. If the candidate is qualified and also represents a group that hasn’t been represented on the Court before, the Court’s political legitimacy should be on balance enhanced. So the primary benefit of diversity on the Court has little to do with how decisions are made and much more to do with how the Court is perceived by the population.Report

  2. Avatar Will says:

    I think that’s exactly right. Mark and I actually discussed a similar point in the context of judicial activism a while back.Report

  3. Avatar sidereal says:

    I really think this is the elephant in the living room when it comes to the political parties’ relationships with various populations of citizens.

    Wikipedia tells me the US population is roughly 66% white, 15% hispanic, 13% black, and 5% asian and more or less 50% female.

    The Senate is 95% white, 2% hispanic, 2%asian, 1% black (and soon to be 0%, for unobjectionable idiosyncratic reasons). And it is 83% male and 17% female.

    The Supreme Court is 88% white, 0% hispanic, 11% black, and 0% asian. It is 88% male and 11% female.

    The House is 83% white, 5% hispanic, 10% black, and 2% asian. It’s 83% male and 17% female.

    (Side note: The male/female ratio is bizarrely consistent)

    Now, as an outsider, here’s my summary of GOP/conservative responses to this situation:
    There’s a small contingent that likes this fact and is willing to be explicit about it. That is, they believe that it is morally correct for the nation to be governed primarily or exclusively by white males and they will say so. There is a fairly large contingent (and this is where I’ll get into trouble for mindreading) that likes this fact but knows they can’t really say it out loud. This is the Limbaugh contingent. They don’t necessarily think while male supremacy should be the law of the land, they just prefer having white males in power. There’s another good sized contingent that recognizes that this skewed distribution of power is a problem, but they’re opposed to doing anything about it. It is a legacy of less enlightened times, they’ll say, but the cure is worse than the disease, for any value of x that represents a cure. And there is a very small faction that believes that it’s a big problem and that something should be done about it.

    On the other hand, in the Democratic party that last group is a massive contingent, with the remainder of the party coming from the previous ‘let nature take its course’ group.

    Now, as a promising minority or female politician it should not be difficult for me to decide between a party that is heavily represented by people who are opposed to my having power and a party that believes I represent an underrepresented group.

    It’s a feedback loop that the GOP will have a very hard time getting out of. Perhaps their salvation will come when (assuming if) power is more evenly distributed and the distinction between the “it’s bad, but don’t do anything” and the “it’s bad, and do something” groups becomes moot.Report